Towards a Theology of Relationship: Emil Brunner’s Truth as Encounter in Light of Relationship Science

By Michael Berra

A powerful new theology of relationship, based on Emil Brunner’s seminal work.



With the theme of relationship receiving renewed attention in a variety of areas, theological expressions of the subject are also being brought back into the spotlight. Although the concept of a personal relationship with God is a common Christian expression, it is often poorly defined. Here, Michael Berra draws on the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner to redefine and rehabilitate the analogy of relationship.

Basing his study primarily on Brunner’s seminal work Truth as Encounter, Berra proposes that relationship ought to be the central motif for the whole of theology. He investigates the theme in light of modern relationship science, arguing that God-human interaction categorically meets the definition of a relationship, and that it is existentially intended to be intimate. Scholars and church leaders will find in Berra’s approach a refreshing voice in this dynamic field.

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Dimensions N/A
Pages 269

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About the Author

Michael Berra is a pastor-theologian currently serving at a large church (Prisma) in Switzerland and leading its school of ministry. He was previously the national youth director of the Evangelical Free Churches in Switzerland


Acknowledgements and Encounters along the Way


I: Truth as Encounter: Emil Brunner, the Relationship Theologian
1. Relationship: Emil Brunner’s Leitmotif
2. Why Building on Emil Brunner?

II: Personal Correspondence: Emil Brunner’s Leitmotif
3. Personal Correspondence: Preliminary
4. Personal Correspondence as Ontic Basis
5. God-Towards-Human: The Call to Restoration of Personal Correspondence
6. Human-Towards-God: The Answer to Restoration of Personal Correspondence

III: The Analogy of Relationship: Personal Correspondence in Light of Relationship Science
7. Analogy of Relationship: Preliminary Considerations
8. Comparing Human and God-Human Relationships
IV: Towards a Theology of Relationship
9. The Analogical Argument
10. Outlook: Ten Propositions Expanding Emil Brunner’s Leitmotif of

Appendix: A Brief Introduction to the Major Frameworks of Relationship Science


Endorsements and Reviews

The great Emil Brunner is mentioned today often only in discussion as an anecdote or side tangent. Yet his theology of relationship is powerful, complex, and more relevant today than ever. Michael Berra reintroduces Brunner and the category of relationship as theology’s leitmotif, while critically assessing relationality in light of contemporary research. Using analogical reasoning, Berra provides a theological framework of relational depth and breadth. This book was a joy to read! Thomas Jay Oord, author of Pluriform Love

Discursive theology needs a philosophy that translates the biblical witness convincingly and boldly. How do we understand God and the world? Twentieth-century systematic theology responds with a relational ontology. From this, Michael Berra goes further and deeper. Drawing on Emil Brunner’s groundbreaking ‘theology of relationship,’ he points to ways of reconstructing our habits of thought. It is worthwhile to follow him there. Ralph Kunz, University of Zürich,

Christian theology, at its best, is a dynamic endeavor that attends to a rich heritage and responds to the contemporary context. This volume contributes well to that task. With precision and confi­dence, Berra juxtaposes Christian doctrine and relationship science to argue for a singular theme around which all of theology should turn: relationship. Readers will benefi­t from his careful analysis of Brunner’s work and its enduring relevance for Christian thinking and living today. Cynthia Bennett Brown, author of Believing ­Thinking, Bounded ­Theology: Th­e Th­eological Methodology of Emil Brunner